The first thing I noticed in Orphan and the Five Beasts was the empty space. Creator James Stokoe is still all about the detail, but now he lets dust in the air just be dust in the air. Stokoe’s detail isn’t static; it takes a while for Orphan to get to some action (I was worried we wouldn’t get to see any until next issue), but once it arrives… Well, Stokoe does some great action. Just perfectly paced, with a great sense of grace, humor, space, and timing.
The comic is about orphan Mo, taken in as a child by a reclusive martial arts master in something like feudal-ish Japan. He’s been training her all her life–they don’t say martial arts, Stokoe’s got a fun way of talking around it (in a “they’re the best at what they do” kind of way)—and now she’s got to go out in the world and right his wrongs. Once upon a time, the old master taught five villagers each an aspect of the martial art (so there are five total aspects, each villager learns one) in order to defeat an invader. The villagers promised they’d return and finish their training. Instead, they used their new powers to become villains.
Mo’s got to go out and get rid of them; old master is too old to do it; won’t be a problem because Mo knows all five aspects, which means Orphan is going to feature a lot of great butt-kicking.
And it does. That fight scene is fantastic, but what about the first Beast she’s after?
That fight will be next issue, no doubt. I’m assuming six issues, five beasts and a prologue. When Stokoe introduces the first Beast, he really amps up the humor (and the icky); both to success.
Old fighting master teaches orphan girl to be unstoppable, but honorable killing machine and sends her out into the world is a trope but Stokoe’s sense of humor, his finely paced storytelling, and his gorgeous art promise a very well-executed trope.